Chinese New Year

Crispy Roasted Duck Legs with Hoisin-Orange Glaze

The one consistent thing my husband wants for his birthday, year after year, is Chinese food. Forget the gifts, don’t bother with cake. Just give him Chinese food and he’s happy.

So this is on the menu this week, for his birthday, which just happens to coincide with Chinese new year.

CRISPY ROASTED DUCK LEGS WITH HOISIN-ORANGE GLAZE

  • 4 duck legs

  • olive oil

  • 1 cup orange juice

  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce

  • 3 tablespoons honey

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the duck legs and rub them with a light film of olive oil. Place them in a roasting pan, flat side up. Roast for 15 minutes. While the duck is roasting, combine the orange juice, hoisin sauce, honey, orange peel. ginger and garlic in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat briefly, stirring just until the honey has become blended in the liquid.. Set aside. When the 15 minutes are done, turn the legs round side up. Pour the orange juice mixture over the meat, cover the pan and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the cover. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Baste and bake for another 15 minutes or until the ducks are cooked through and the skin is crispy. 

Makes 4 servings

 

Stir-fried String Beans with Meat (Ants on a Tree)

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There's an old, ongoing joke about Jews and Chinese food. You know, the Jewish year is 5777 and the Chinese year is 4714; we love Chinese food so how did we get along without it for over a thousand years?

All kidding aside, there is a real connection among the Jews and Chinese going back -- in the United States at least -- to May 1903. 

In April of that year there was a terrible pogrom in Kishinev (now in Moldava) during Russian Easter. Several days of anti-semitic violence took its toll on the Jewish community: 49 dead, 500 injured and about 2,000 homeless. News of the violence reached the United States, where Jewish philanthropists raised money to help the victims.

But a Chinese businessman on New York's Lower East Side felt the outrage too.

His name was John Singleton, who understood the cruelty and sometimes barbarism inflicted upon minority groups. He and three fellow merchants Guy Main (Yee Kai Man), Dek Foon and Jue Chue arranged for a benefit performance at the Chinese Theater on Doyers Street on May 11, 1903.

The program consisted of a short play (performed in Chinese) -- all the Chinese actors donated their time. Then speakers. Guy Main and Rabbi Joseph Zeff (who spoke in Yiddish) talked about the common bond between the two people, noting the atrocities committed by Russians against both. Another speaker expressed Jewish gratitude to the Chinese and wished the United States to welcome them as Americans, a somewhat veiled protest against the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Finally? Dinner at Mon Lay Won, considered the "Chinese Delmonico's." A very special place. The famous Yiddish actress Bertha Kalisch attended, as well as many other prominent Jews. There is no record of the menu, but it was definitely NOT kosher. The restaurant, which usually served featured pork and shrimp, apparently tried to be sensitive to the Jewish dietary laws and didn't serve those items, but we know that among the dishes served were chicken, squab and reindeer.

The event raised about $280 for the Kishinev victims (that's about $7,300 in today's dollars).

Of course this is not the reason that Jews love Chinese food. But the gesture stands, the solidarity cannot be forgotten. And so, on this 114th anniversary of the event, I offer a tasty Chinese dish that's welcome for spring. If you can get Chinese long beans that's perfect, but I make the dish with common string beans. The authentic Chinese version calls for ground pork, but my recipe uses turkey. It's kosher.

Celebrate solidarity, unity, kinship, friendship, respect for all ethnic groups and minorities.

Stir Fried String Beans with Meat

  • 1/2 pound Chinese long beans, green string beans or haricots vertes
  • 3 scallions, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces ground turkey or veal
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or sherry
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 dried red chili peppers (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

Wash and trim the beans. Shred the scallions by using a small sharp knife tip and cutting through from the root end through the greens. Cut away the root and set the scallions aside. Steam the beans for about 3 minutes or until barely tender. Drain under cold water and set aside. Preheat a wok or stirfry pan. Pour in the vegetable oil, let it get hot. Add the meat and stirfry for a minute or so, stirring constantly and breaking up the pieces, until the meat is no longer pink. Add the water, wine, soy sauce, sugar, peppers and sesame oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Add the scallions and ginger and mix them in. Add the beans and stirfry for a bout a minute, mixing the ingredients to distribute them evenly. 

Makes 4 servings

Fried Rice is Always Welcome

Ed and I have eaten a lot of fried rice recently. In Hong Kong. In Vietnam. In Cambodia. In the Philippines.

You could say fried rice is a staple in our lives. Just this simple dish: hot rice, vaguely crispy from the fry, lightly salty (but never with added soy sauce) and with a bit of egg, onion (usually in the form of scallion) and cooked vegetables. And that's how we had it (with a change of seasonings, depending on where we were) throughout Southeast Asia.

And that's how we have it at home (only from now on I will add more of the flavorings we recently sampled -- like sliced chili pepper or fresh coriander or star anise).

Because no matter what else I make for dinner, Ed will always welcome fried rice as a side dish.

He will also welcome fried rice as the main dish.

That makes it very easy for me, especially on days when I don't feel like fussing over dinner.

It does take some thinking ahead, because it's best to make fried rice using cold, cooked rice.

After that it's simple. You stirfry the rice and add all sorts of other ingredients from cooked carrots or mushrooms or any other veggie, to frozen peas to canned water chestnuts to fresh scallions to leftover chicken or veal to scrambled eggs -- whatever you have! And season it the way you like.

Like the recipe below, which was a filling, satisfying, delicious one-pot dinner.

Another bonus -- I added some of the Carrington Sriracha flavored coconut oil that I mentioned when I posted about Sriracha-Parmesan Popcorn. I got the oil, among other things at Crafted Kosher, a new website that has an enormous assortment of interesting products. The coconut oil is coming in handy for many of my recipes (stay tuned). Just a small amount makes a huge flavor difference, as it did with this fried rice.

Fried Rice with Egg and Peas

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha flavored coconut oil
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked cold rice
  • 3/4 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 1 cup diced leftover turkey, chicken or veal, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Beat the eggs in a bowl and set aside. Heat 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil in a wok or stirfry pan over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and cook, stirring once or twice until they are set on the bottom. Turn the eggs over and cook briefly until firm. Dish out the eggs onto a chopping board, chop them and set them aside. Heat the remaining vegetable oil and the coconut oil in the pan. Add the scallions and stirfry for about one minute. Add the rice, eggs, peas, optional meat and salt and stirfry for 2-3 minutes to distribute ingredients and heat the rice.

Makes 2-4 servings, depending on whether this is a one-dish meal or part of a meal

 

Happy Birthday, Valentine's Day and Chinese New year

Today is Ed's birthday and I was thinking about what to make for dinner. We used to go out to eat because there was a restaurant nearby that served chocolate cake with apricot filling, which he loved, but the restaurant closed. These days he doesn't eat cake, so there goes that.

No dessert, okay, that's his choice. But what about the main course? 

He'd appreciate stuffed cabbage. Or braised short ribs.

But mostly he likes Chinese food. Cantonese egg rolls or Sichuan Hot and Sour Soup. Mild or spicy.

Any kind of Chinese food.

I can't go wrong with Chinese food. Which he would also choose for Valentine's Day. Or to celebrate Chinese New Year (February 19th).

Here's one he loves: 

Beef with Orange

  • 1 large or 2 small navel oranges

  • 12 ounces beef steak

  • 1 large egg white

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • Sauce:

    • 1 tablespoon Mirin

    • 1 tablespoon water or beef stock

    • 1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

    • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar

    • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

    • 1 teaspoon sugar

    • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 thick scallions, chopped

  • 1 small serrano or jalapeno chili pepper, deseeded and chopped

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Peel the oranges, then cut the peel into bite size pieces and place the pieces on a baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the pieces have dried. Remove from the oven and set aside. While the orange peel is baking, slice the meat and place the pieces in a bowl. Add the egg white and cornstarch and mix the ingredients thoroughly to be sure every slice is coated. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce by mixing the Mirin, water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame seed oil, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a stirfry pan or wok (or large saute pan) over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until the meat is completely brown. Remove the meat to a dish and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan. Add the scallions, chili pepper, ginger, garlic and orange peel and stirfry briefly. Return the meat to the pan and stirfry to distribute the ingredients evenly. Sprinkle the ingredients with sugar and stirfry briefly. Stir the sauce to be sure the cornstarch (which may have settled to the bottom) is completely incorporated. Pour the sauce over the ingredients and stirfry for about a minute until the meat is glazed. 

Makes 2 servings (or 4 with other dishes)

 

 

 

 

 

Scallion Cakes

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If the Giants or Jets aren’t playing I’m not much interested in the Superbowl. It might have been okay if the New England Patriots were in it, since I live in New England, sort of (a lot of Yankees consider us lower Fairfield county folks New England-imposters). And maybe even if the Bears were in it because I went to college at Northwestern, in Evanston, Illinois and spent 4 years cheering on Da Bears, Cubs, White Sox, etc.

Frankly, Green Bay and Pittsburgh? Not interested so much. 

But we always go to my brother and sister-in-law’s house on Superbowl Sunday. It’s been a tradition for years and years now, whether or not we watch the game or just switch TV channels occasionally to see who’s winning. They have an enormous TV that makes you feel as if you are in the stadium. Jeff makes the best fireplace fire and also the best popcorn (he uses an entire stick of butter). Eileen will surely make a turkey breast and fixins. So I guess my contribution will be hors d’oeuvre.

Instead of the usual guacamole or salsa, I’ll bring Scallion Cakes. They’re crispy wedges of fried dough filled with little bits of chopped scallions sprinkled judiciously with crunchy particles of kosher salt. Believe me, these things are like potato chips. You can never eat just one. I better make a double recipe to have in my freezer for when my kids come to visit. You don’t even have to defrost them — reheat them in a single layer in a preheated 425 degree oven for a few minutes on each side until they’re hot.

Scallion Cakes

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • vegetable oil
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped

Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the boiling water and mix at medium speed until a rough dough has formed. Let cool for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the cold water and mix until the dough forms into a ball. Knead for 4-5 minutes or until smooth and elastic (you can do all this in a food processor). Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Using a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10-inch circle. Brush the dough with about 1-1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Sprinkle with about 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Sprinkle with about one tablespoon of the chopped scallion. Roll the circle jelly roll style. Form the rolled dough into a coil. Press down on the coil to flatten it slightly. Roll the coil into circles about 1/8-inch thick (don’t worry if some of the dough breaks and the scallions pop through slightly). Repeat with the remaining dough, salt and scallions. Keep the circles separated. Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a skillet large enough to hold the circles. Cover the pan and cook each circle, one at a time, over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side, or until browned and crispy. Add more vegetable oil to the pan as necessary for each circle of dough. Drain the fried circles on paper towels. Cut each circle into 8 wedges. Serve hot. Makes 48 pieces